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Sharif Return Ends in Deportation
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Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to the country on Monday morning after seven years' exile, was again deported after less than five-hour stay at the Islamabad Airport.


A TV grab shows exiled former Prime Minister of Pakistan and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif waving as he steps off a plane upon his arrival at Islamabad airport on September 10, 2007.


TV channels showed footage of the take-off of the plane carrying Sharif, who was deported to Saudi Arabia in a chartered flight of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).


Nawaz Sharif went into a 10-year exile to evade life imprisonment under an arrangement brokered through Saudi Arabia in 2000, one year after General Pervez Musharraf dismissed his government.


Vowing to oust the Musharraf government in the coming elections due later this year, 58-year-old Sharif maintained his return on Sept. 10, despite strong requests for honoring the exile agreement from the Musharraf government and Saudi Arabia.


The decision to return was made days after a Supreme Court order on Aug. 23 ruled the Sharifs could return to Pakistan, which however offered Sharifs no immunity from possible legal charges.


Around 8:45 AM (0345 GMT) on Monday, the plane carrying Sharif from London landed at Islamabad Airport, where a curfew-like security alert has been put.


All roads leading to the airport were closed ahead of the planned landing and security personnel reportedly over days have arrested top opposition leaders and hundreds of activists to foil plan to accord warm welcome to Sharif.


Police commandos surrounded Sharif's plane immediately after it landed and later they entered into the plane, allowing other passengers to go out of the plane.


Pakistani Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed confirmed that Sharif was taken into custody after a team of government officials talked with him.


According to officials, Sharif had been offered two options during the talks, either to be deported to Saudi Arabia or to be arrested and sent to jail.


Later Sharif was confirmed to be formally arrested on corruption charges after being shown arrest warrants at the VIP lounge of the airport.


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is arrested upon his arrival at Islamabad's airport September 10, 2007.


TV channels screen displayed footage of Nawaz Sharif's arrest when the elite police force grabbed him from shoulder and took him away from the lounge.


A helicopter first took Sharif away and then turned back to a military airport adjoining the civilian Islamabad Airport, where Sharif was put into a PIA Airbus flight heading to Saudi Arabia, TV reports said.


Meanwhile, Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party also filed a petition in the Supreme Court against his arrest and possible deportation.


Sharif served twice as Pakistan's prime minister in the 1990s and his second premier term was ended in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.


He was thrown into prison in 2000 after being sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of hijacking and terrorism. And the same year, he was pardoned and went into a 10-year exile under an arrangement with the government.


It is convinced that Sharif's return will complicate Pakistan's pre-election situation and pose challenge to President Musharraf, whose current presidential tenure expires this mid-November and who is seeking another five-year term.


The Pakistani government has recently re-opened corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif and other cases against his brother Shahbaz Sharif, also a politician, in a bid to stop them from returning.


A local anti-terrorism court had issued warrants for the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif in connection with the killing of five youths in 1989, when he was the chief minister of Punjab province.


Corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif are still pending in an accountability court awaiting further hearing.


Musharraf is currently involved in a dialogue with another exiled former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto about a possible "power-sharing deal" in the coming elections.


Benazir Bhutto, chairperson of the Pakistan People's Party, a major opposition party with the alleged highest popularity, served twice as prime minister of Pakistan in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, and went into a self-imposed exile in 1999 to evade corruption charges against herself and her family.


(Xinhua News Agency September 11, 2007)

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